Rooney has come under fire for some subpar displays this term, although he did score a hat-trick in the Champions League playoff tie against Club Brugge.
Mata insisted Rooney’s off the ball work is invaluable to United’s play.
“Obviously it’s easy when you have players like him there. He is moving all the time and trying to make a line for your pass,” Mata said.
“I was very happy for him after his three goals against Club Brugge, but he’s not a striker that just scores, he does a lot of work for the team offensively and also to protect the ball.”
Rooney has been criticised at points throughout his career but he always seems to prove the doubters wrong. Although he has undoubtedly lost a yard of pace and perhaps the fire in his game that made him so revered, the hope is that he can silence his critics once again upon his return from injury.